Chinese Mythology is a collection of cultural history, folktales, and religions that have been passed down in oral or written form. There are several aspects to Chinese mythology, including creation myths and legends and myths concerning the founding of Chinese culture and the Chinese state. Like many mythologies, some people believe it to be a factual recording of history. Many myths are better known in the US by their Japanese versions.
Historians have conjectured that the Chinese mythology began in 12th century B.C. The myths and legends were passed down in oral format for over a thousand years, before being written down in early books such as Shui Jing Zhu and Shan Hai Jing. Other myths continued to be passed down through oral traditions such as theatre and song, before being recorded in the form of novels such as Fengshen Yanyi.
Shan Hai Jing : Mountain and Sea Scroll : in chinese mythology it describes the myths and religion of ancient China in detail. It contains a record of the geography, sea and mountain, history, medicine, customs, and ethnicities in ancient time. It has been called an early encyclopedia of China. In Wu Chinese, "talking about the Shan Hai Jing" is an idiom meaning gossip or idle chat in chinese mythology. Shui Jing Zhu : Commentaries on the Water Scroll : this work began as commentaries on the briefer work of the Water Scroll, but became famous of its own accord because of its extensive record of geography, history, and associated Chinese legends. Hei'an Zhuan : the only collection of legends in epic form preserved by a community of the Han nationality of China containing accounts from the birth of Pangu till the historical era. Chinese Imperial historical documents and philosophical canons such as Shangshu, Shiji, Liji, Lushi Chunqiu, and others. Some Chinese Mythology myths survive in theatrical or literary formats, as plays or novels.
Verse poetry of ancient states in Chinese Mythology:
Fengshen Yanyi, or Anointing of the Gods, which is mythological fiction dealing with the founding of the Zhou dynasty. Journey to the West, by Wu Cheng'en, a fictionalised account of the pilgrimage of Xuanzang to India, in which the pilgrims encounter a variety of ghosts, monsters, and demons. Baishe Zhuan, a romantic tale set in Hangzhou involving a snake who attained human form and fell in love with a man.
Creation myths in Chinese Mythology:
A unique characteristic of Chinese culture is the relatively late appearance in Chinese literature of creation myths. Those that do exist appear well after the foundation of Confucianism, Taoism, and Folk Religions. The stories exist in several versions, often conflicting, with the creation of the first humans being variously ascribed to Shangdi, Heaven, Nuwa, Pangu, Yu Huang. The following presents common versions of the creation story in roughly chronological order.
Shangdi, appearing in Chinese literature probably about 700 BC, or earlier:
There are no "creation" oriented narratives for Shangdi, although the role of a creator is a possible interperatation. Although Shangdi appears to have the attributes of a "person", detailed references to Shangdi as the creator are not explicitly identified until about the Han Dynasty. Tian appearing in literature probably about 700 BC, or earlier (the dating of these occurrences depends on the date of the Shujing, aka "Book of History"). There are no "creation" oriented narratives for 'Heaven', although the role of a creator is a possible interperatation. The qualities of Heaven and Shangdi appear to merge in later literature (and are worshipped as one entity in, for example, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing). The extent of the distinction (if any) between them is debated. Nüwa, appearing in literature no earlier than about 350 BC, is said to have recreated, or created humanity. Her companion was Fuxi the brother and husband of Nuwa. These two mythology beings are sometimes worshipped as the ultimate ancestor of all humankind. They are often represented as half-snake, half-human creatures. Nüwa was also responsible for repairing the sky after Gong Gong damaged the pillar supporting the heavens (see below). Pangu, appearing in literature no earlier than about 200 AD, was the first sentient being and creator. In the beginning there was nothing but a formless chaos. Out of this chaos there was born an egg for eighteen thousand years. When the forces of Yin and Yang balanced, Pangu emerged from the egg, and set about the task of creating the world. He separated Yin and Yang with a swing of his great axe. The heavy Yin sank to become the Earth, while the light Yang rose to become the Heavens. Pangu stood between them, and pushed up the sky. At the end of eighteen thousand years, Pangu laid to rest. His breath became the wind; his voice the thunder; left eye the sun and right eye the moon; his body became the mountains and extremes of the world; his blood formed rivers; his muscles the fertile lands; his facial hair the stars and milky way; his fur the bushes and forests; his bones the valuable minerals; his bone marrows sacred diamonds; his sweat fell as rain; carried by the wind, became human beings all over the world. Yu Huang, including representations such as Yuanshi Tianzun, Huangtian Shangdi, appear in literature well after the establishment of Taoism in China.
Three August Ones and Five Emperors in Chinese Mythology:
Following on from the age of Nuwa and Fuxi (or cotemporaneous in some versions) was the age of the Three August Ones and Five Emperors, a collection of legendary rulers who ruled between c. 2850 BC to 2205 BC, which is the time preceding the Xia dynasty.
The list of names comprising the Three August Ones and Five Emperors vary widely between sources. The version in the widest circulation (and most popularly known) is:
The Three August Ones in Chinese Mythology:
Fux : The companion of Nuwa. Shennong : Shennong, (Divine Farmer), reputedly taught the ancients agriculture and medicine. Huang Di : Huang Di, (Yellow Emperor), often regarded as the first sovereign of the Chinese nation.
The Five Emperors:
Shaohao : Leader of the Dongyi or "Eastern Barbarians"; his pyramidal tomb is in present-day Shandong province. Zhuanxu : Grandson of the Yellow Emeperor Emperor Ku : Great grandson of the Yellow Emperor; nephew of Zhuanxu. Yao : The son of Ku. His elder brother succeeded Ku, but abdicated when he was found to be an ineffective ruler. Shun : Yao passed his position to Shun in favour of Yao's own son because of Shun's ability and morality. These rulers were generally regarded as extremely moral and benevolent rulers, examples to be emulated by latter day kings and emperors. When Qin Shi Huang united China in 221 BC, he felt that his achievements had surpassed those of all the rulers who have gone before him. Hence, he combined the ancient tiles of Huang and Di to create a new title, Huangdi, usually translated as Emperor.
Chinese Mythology shares with Sumerian, Judaean, Indian, Greek, Mayan, and hundreds of traditions a period known as the Deluge or Great Flood. The Chinese ruler Da Yu, with the help of the Chinese goddess Nüwa, helped dig the canals that controlled the flood and allowed people to grow crops.
Deities in Chinese Mythology:
The Jade Emperor is believed to be the most important god in chinese mythology. The origins of the Jade Emperor in Chinese Mythology and how he came to be regarded as a deity are unknown. Also known as Yu Huang Shang-ti, his name means the August Personage of Jade. He is considered to be the first god and to be in charge of all the gods and goddesses in chinese mythology. Many myths of well-known gods and goddesses who were in charge of differentulture exist, although they all answer to the Jade Emperor. The Chinese dragon is one of the most important mythical creatures in Chinese mythology. The Chinese dragon is considered to be the most powerful and divine creature and is believed to be the controller of all waters. The Chinese dragon symbolised great power and was very supportive of heroes and gods. One of the most famous dragons in Chinese mythology is Ying Long, or "Responding Dragon". He is said to be the god of rain. Many people in different places pray to him in order to receive rain. In Chinese mythology, dragons are believed to be able to create clouds with their breath. Chinese people often use the term "Descendants of the Dragon" as a sign of ethnic identity. For the most part, Chinese myths involve moral issues which inform people of their culture and values. There are many stories that can be studied or excavated in China.
Religion and Chinese Mythology:
There is extensive interaction between Chinese mythology and the belief systems of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism.
Various parts of pre-existing mythology were adapted into these belief systems as they developed, such as Taoism. Buddhism was assimilated into Chinese culture. On the other hand, elements from the teachings and beliefs of these systems became incorporated into Chinese mythology. For example, the Taoist belief of a spiritual paradise became incorporated into mythology, as the place where immortals and deities dwell. The Three August Ones and Five Emperors became a part of the Confucian political philosophy of Primitivism.
Major mythologies and deities in Chinese Mythology:
Three Pure Ones : the Daoist trinity
Four Emperors : heavenly kings of Daoist religion
Jade Emperor : supreme ruler of all
Beiji Dadi : ruler of stars
Tianhuang Dadi : ruler of gods
Empress of Earth :
Xi Wangmu : holds secret to everlasting life
God of North :
Xuan Nü : goddess who assisted Huang Di to subdue Chi You
Eight Immortals :
He Xiangu :
Cao Guojiu :
Tie Guaili :
Lan Caihe :
Lu Dongbin :
Han Xiang Zi :
Zhang Guo Lao :
Zhongli Quan :
Deities of Buddhist origin in Chinese Mythology:
Guan Yin : Goddess of compassion
Laughing Buddha : god of happiness and wealth
Dizang : rescuer of the dead
Yanluo : ruler of Hell
Four Heavenly Kings : Four buddhist guardian gods
Erlang Shen :
Lei Gong : god of thunder in Chinese Mythology
Nezha : Guan Yu : God of Brotherhoods
Zhao Gongming : God of Wealth
Bi Gan : God of Wealth in Chinese Mythology
Kui Xing : God of examinations
Sun Wukong :
Matsu : Queen of heaven in Chinese Mythology
Zao Jun :
Tu Di Gong : the land god(s)
Shing Wong :
Zhong Kui :
Lung Mo :
Hung Shing :
Tam Kung, sea god :
Wong Tai Sin :
Meng Po :
Three August Ones and Five Emperors : a collection of legendary rulers
Zhu Rong : God of fire
Gong Gong : God of water in chinese mythology
Chi You : War god
Da Yu : regulates the rivers
Kua Fu : chases the sun
Cangjie : creates the characters
Hou Yi : archer who shot down suns
The Cowherd and Weaver Girl :
Han Ba : goddess of drought
Wenchang Wang :
Gao Yao : Chinese Mythology God of judgement
Mythical places in Chinese Mythology:
Xuanpu, a mythical fairyland on Kunlun Mountain.
Yaochi, abode of immortals where Xi Wang Mu lives.
Fusang, a mythical island, interpreted as Japan or the Americas.
Queqiao, the bridge formed by birds across the Milky Way.
Penglai, the paradise, a fabled Fairy Isle on the China Sea.
Longmen, the dragon gate where a carp can transform into a dragon.
Di Yu, the Chinese hell.
Chinese Mythology Creation Story:
In Scroll One Chapter One of Pantao Yen Log or The Feast of Immortal Peaches, Daozu Lao Tsu introduced the genesis starting with the definition of Tao, in simpler less ambiguous descriptions than the starting chapter in Tao Te Ching. Tao according to Daozu is the infinite primodial wuji, out of which came a supra-being Xuanxuan Shangren. This supra-being first transformed into the Daoist Trinity Three Pure Ones and later manifested at the cardinal south as another Chi Jingzi, cardinal north Shui Jingzi, cardinal east Mu Gong, cardinal west Jing Mu, in the cardinal center Huang Lao were formed, collectively also revered as the Five Supremes as all are over ten thousand years old. Genesis and Creation in Chinese Mythology
In Chinese Mythology it is believed that the creation of lives including man was by Jin Mu and Mu Gong after they breathed qi into an incubator ding. A male and female child were then born from this breath of life. The excess qi escaped and other forms of lives on earth were created from this. Supra-beings such as Xuanxuan Shangren and the Five Supremes were not themselves Yuanren beings but more primordial concepts of creation. In a follow up book called Tiantang Yiuchi the same creation story was narrated and given more details in Chapter Four and Chapter Seven. Xuanxuan Shangren transformed into the Three Pure Ones and again transformed to the Five Elders or Five Supremes before the first man and woman were incubated. They were allegorically the same as Pangu from the Chinese mythology and Adam and Eve of Christianity. In Chinese mythology, a second folkloric version of genesis described the beginning of the universe started out as a black egg in which the Earth, heavens, and Pangu exist together as one. Pangu cracks open the egg, thus creating the universe. Pangu then creates Earth and Sky. Nüwa made the first members of mankind from yellow clay. This is believed to be an allegorical tale of the Division-Genesis in Tao Te Ching, partially in I Ching and re-stated in Tiantang Yiuchi. Out of Tao, the primodial infinite Nothingness or Wuji came Taichi, which then split into the binary yin and yangor Two Aspects, yin and yang slitting into the Four Realms and from which begets Bagua or Eight Symbols, and from which every beings were created. The following texts were traceable to the legendary emperor Fuxi: Shouyuan and Yuanling
It was further explained in Tiantang Yiuchi by Lao Tsu who is Tai Ching that from the seeds in the first man and woman begets a total of 9.6 Billion original souls Yuanling, with a qualifier that all living sentient‘beings’ were not limited to 9.6 Billion. The fall of man was given an explanation as these yuanling were muddied on earth. The purpose of Shouyuan or the Chinese mythology Judgment Day was intended to induct these fallen from the realm of the living back to the heaven. There were two previous Shouyuan which guided some 400 million souls back to heaven. Currently the world is at the third period of Judgment Day called in many guidance books and Sift Text dictation as Sanhui Shouyan.
Chinese Mythology Objects:
Peach wood sword: the definitive weapon used for demon exorcism during Taoist exorcism. The ones from Long Mountain in Jiangxi province are particularly valued as the premium quality peach wood swords.
Stone tablets: the tablets are placed at main doors, junctions of small avenues, three-way junctions, river banks or ponds to gather positive energy and ward off evil spirit.
Tai mountain stone tablets: the most powerful of the stone tablets are made from stones coming from Mount Tai. These stone tablets are shaped like the mountain forming the 5 fingers shape.
Spirit tablet: a spiritual home in your house for ancestor spirits.
The abacus is a kind of calculator that was used in ancient Chinese civilization (as early as the year 500 B.C.). The abacus can be used to do addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. It does not have batteries, but you can be just as fast in finding the answer with an abacus as you are with a calculator!! The beads each have a value determined by where they are on the abacus. Beads found in the upper deck each have a value of five. The beads on the lower deck each have a value of one. Place value is also important. The beads in the column at the far right are in the ones column, the beads that are in the column next to the far right are in the tens column, etc. As you move left in the columns, you move from ones, to tens, to hundreds, to thousands, and so on. Beads are considered counted when they have been slid towards the horizontal bar. This means that the upper beads are counted when they are slid down towards the bar, and the lower beads are counted when they are slid up towards the bar. An important thing to note is that in order to use the abacus, it has to be sitting on a flat surface. More advanced calculations (decimals and fractions) can also be done by designing a space between two columns as the decimal point, then adjusting what the place values are.
The Ten Suns in Chinese Mythology
Chinese people once believed that there existed ten suns that appeared in turn in the sky during the Chinese ten day week. Each day the ten suns would travel with their mother, the goddess Xi He, to the Valley of the Light in the East. There, Xi He, would wash her children in the lake and put them in the branches of an enormous mulberry tree called fu-sang. From the tree only one sun would move off into the sky for a journey of one day, to reach the mount Yen-Tzu in the Far West. Tired of this routine, the ten suns decided to appear all together. The combined heat made the life on the Earth unbearable. To prevent the destruction of the Earth emperor Yao asked Di Jun, the father of the ten suns, to persuade his children to appear one at a time. They would not listen to him so Di Jun sent the archer, Yi, armed with a magic bow and ten arrows to frighten the disobedient suns. However Yi shot nine suns, only the Sun that we see today remained in the sky.
The Eight Immortals of Chinese Mythology
Pa Hsten :
Ordinary mortals who through good works and good lives were rewarded by the Queen Mother Wang by giving them the peaches of everlasting life to eat.
Li Tien-Kuai Li of the Iron Crutch.
A healer, Li sits as a beggar in the market place selling wondrous drugs, some of which can revive the dead.
Chung-Li Ch'uan A smiling old men always beaming with joy, he was rewarded with immortality for his ascetic life in the mountains.
Lan Ts'Ai-Ho A young flute-player and wandering minstrel who carries a basket laden with fruit.
His soul searching songs caused a stork to snatch him away to the heavens.
Lu Tung-Pin A hero of early Chinese literature.
Renouncing riches and the world, he punished the wicked and rewarded the good and slew dragons with a magic sword.
Chang-Kuo Lao An aged hermit with miraculous abilities.
Chang owned a donkey which could travel at incredible speed.
The personification of the primordial vapor which is the source of all life.
Han Hstang-Tzu A scholar who chose to study magic rather than prepare for the civil service.
When his uncle chastised him for studying magic, Han Hsiang-Tzu materialized two flowers with poems written on the leaves.
Ts'Ao Kuo-Chiu Ts'ao Kuo-Chiu tried to reform his brother a corrupt emperor by reminding him that the laws of heaven are inescapable.
Ho Hsien-Ku "Immortal Maiden Ho." A Cantonese girl who dreamed that she could become immortal by eating a powder made of mother-of-pearl.
She appears only to men of great virtue.
Chinese Moon Cakes
During the Yuan dynasty (A.D.1280-1368) China was ruled by the Mongolian people. Leaders from the preceding Sung dynasty (A.D.960-1280) were unhappy at submitting to foreign rule and set how to coordinate the rebellion without it being discovered. The leaders of the rebellion knowing that the Moon Festival was drawing near ordered the making of special cakes. Backed into each mooncake was a message with the outline of the attack. On the night of the Moon Festival the rebels attacked and overthrew the government. What followed was the establishment of the Ming dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644). Today, moon cakes are eaten to commemorate this event.
Heaven and Hell in Chinese Mythology
According to popular legend there are in fact 18 Hells each one has its own sphere of influence and punishments and they are distributed among 10 Courts of Justice, who are presided over by the Shih Tien Yen Wang. The Deities responsible for judging and punishing have been amalgamated into the 10 Yama Kings.
Milky Way in Chinese Mythology
According to legend the seventh Princess of Heaven fell in love with a poor herdsman. She stole away to marry him and lived happily for a time as a weaver. When her mother sent soldiers to fetch her daughter home they were forced to retreat before the herdsman's strength. Seeing her daughter's husband in swift pursuit, The princess' mother dropped a silver pin, creating a silver stream to separate the lovers forever. The young princess' love finally moved her father to allow her an annual reunion with her husband. If it should rain on that night, it is said to be the princess' tears. The Milky Way is the silver stream, which can be seen on the lunar calendar's seventh day of the seventh month with young lovers, the Vega and Altair stars, on either side.
Gods in Chinese Mythology
Ch'eng-Huang : Chinese god of walls and ditches. Each village had their own Ch'eng-Huang. Chu Jung : Chinese god of fire executions. Emodies justice, revenge, death, and the element of fire. Erh-Lang : Chinese god who chased away evil spirits, the great restorer, the sustainer. He is invoked for protection. Fu-Hsing : Chinese god of happiness. Symbolizes destiny, fate, love, happiness, and success. Hou-chi : Chinese god of harvest and agriculture. Depicted as a kindly old man with stalks growing from his scalp. Hsuan-T'ien-Shang-Ti : Chinese god who removes demons and evil spirits. I-ti : Chinese god of wine. Kue'i-Hsing : Chinese god of safe travels, tests, literature, and students. Kuan Ti : Chinese god of war. Lao-Tien-Yeh : Chinese great god. Lei-Kung : Chinese god of retribution and thunder. He makes thunder with his hammer, chases away evil spirits, and punishes criminals whose crimes have gone undetected. Lu-Hsing : Chinese god of salaries, wages, and employment. Symbolizes success, prosperity, earned wealth, justice. Lu-Pan : Chinese god of carpenters and masons. Symbolizes artistic talent and fame.
Goddesses in Chinese Mythology
CHANG O : A moon goddess honored with a festival every September. The divine archer, Yi's wife. She lives in a palace made out of cinnamon wood. HSI WANG MU : Goddess of immortality. KUAN YIN : Goddess of compassion. Chuang-Mu : Chinese goddess of the bed and sexual delights. Feng-Po-Po : Chinese goddess of the winds, she replaced Feng-Po. She symbolizes the elements of air and water, storms, precipitation and moisture. Hu-Tu : Chinese earth goddess, similar to gaia, the deification of the earth. Patroness of fertility, element is earth. Lo-shen : Chinese goddess of rivers. Meng-Po-Niang : Chinese goddess who stood just within the gates of hell. Her magic potion was administered to each soul, so that they would forget their past lives.
Moon Ascension in Chinese Mythology
This mythology about the moon begins after Yi a divine archer with magic powers had killed the nine suns. The Lord of Heaven, Di Jun condemned Yi and his wife, Chang E, to live on earth as mortals as Yi had killed nine of Di Jun's sons. Yi went in search of the elixir of eternal life possessed by the Queen Mother of the West. She gave him enough elixir for two, but warned that if one person took it all he or she would leave the world for higher regions. Yi took the elixir back home to his wife, Chang E, who was missing her former trouble free life in heaven. Having learned from her husband about the goddess's warnings, she considered taking all the elixir and returning to heaven. But she was worried that she would be condemned by the other deities for deserting her husband, so she decided to consult an astrologer. He suggested that she should go to the moon where she would be free from the travails of mortal life and the accusations of the gods and goddesses. Chang E agreed. One day, when Yi was out, she stole the elixir from where it was hidden in the rafters, swallowed the whole bottle and immediately floated to the moon.
Pan-Ku in Chinese Mythology
According to ancient Chinese mythology the universe had the shape of an egg. When the egg broke a giant, Pan-Ku, came out of it along with two basic elements, Yin and Yang. Yang formed the sky and Yin condensed to become the Earth. After 18,000 years Pan-Ku died. From his head were created the Sun and the Moon, from his blood the rivers and seas, from his breath the wind, and from his voice the thunder. Finally, human beings were generated from the fleas which lived on him.
Celestial Emblems in Chinese Mythology
The Four Directions, East, South, West and North, represent the four seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Together with the Centre they form the five cardinal points. The Four Directions have been represented at least since the second century BC, by four celestial animals, the Dragon for the East, the Bird for the South, the Tiger for the West, and the Tortoise for the North. Each animal has its own colour : the Dragon is the Green of Spring, the Bird the red of Fire, the Tiger of Autumn the glittering white of metal, and the Tortoise Black, for night, or water. The four celestial animals are also the names of the four divisions of the sky.
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Dragons in Chinese Mythology
Dragon occupies a very important postion in Chinese mythology. They shows up in arts, literature, poetry, architecture, songs, and many aspects of the Chinese conscience. The origin of Chinese dragons is unknown, but pre-dates the written history. In the mythology of China the dragon is the supreme spiritual power, the most ancient emblem in mythology and the most ubiquitous dragon motif in Oriental art. Dragons represent celestial and terrestrial power, wisdom, and strength. They reside in water and bring wealth and good luck and, belief, rainfall for crops. In traditional Chinese New Year's Day parades Dragons are believed to repel evil spirits that would spoil the new year. The five clawed dragon became the Chinese Imperial emblem (the four clawed being the common dragon). Dragons were generally classified into four types. They are the tien-lung, shen-lung, ti-lung and the fut-lung. The tien-lung or celestial dragon protected the gods and the palaces. The shen-lung were the spiritual dragons which controlled the wind and the rain. The ti-lung or the Earth dragons controlled the rivers and the waterways on earth. The fut-lung or the underworld dragons, guarded precious metals buried in the earth. It is believed that the oriental dragons and chinesedragons originated from China. The further the dragons travelled away from China, the more toes the they lost.
Nu Wa in Chinese Mythology
It is said that there were no men when the sky and the earth were separated. It was Nü Wa who made men by moulding yellow clay. The work was so taxing that her strength was not equal to it. So she dipped a rope into the mud and then lifted it. Those made by moulding yellow clay were rich and noble, while those made by lifting the rope were poor and low.
Lei Kung in Chinese Mythology
In Chinese mythology Lei Kung is the God of Thunder. Lei Kung is depicted as having a blue body, claws and wings. He carrys a hammer and punishes those people who have committed crimes but escaped the law.
Feng Hwang in Chinese Mythology
The Feng Hwang is a mystical Chinese bird that was sometimes called the Chinese Phoenix. It was a favorite omen of the Emperor. The Feng Hwang symbolized fire and was regarded as a personifactaion of virtue. It first appeared during the time of Cheng Wang but seemed to disappear after the time of Hung Wu.
Paralumun New Age Village
The Chinese Mythology section of Paralumun New Age Village is maintained by Jason Li.
With a life of studying, reading and researching chinese mythology Jason is regarded as one of the worlds experts in the area.